Tuesday, December 23, 2008

over the river and through the woods

...to Grandmother's house we go. Or should I say, we went.......and we're still there. K and I are from the same town originally, so it works out well when it's time to go visit all of the grandparents at Christmastime, etc. Takes a grand total of 7 minutes to drive between my mom's and the in-laws.

Got here on Sunday, staying until Saturday 12/27. Hoping to see bunches of family and old friends during this week, but I know we'll be more than ready to go home by Saturday. We have Christmas dinners and present-opening 3 days in a row--24th, 25th, 26th! Don't even want to think about the potential for weight gain. *sigh*

Last night, we had the continuation of a really cool tradition. K and some high school friends (all brass players) decided in the 11th grade to go around and play Christmas carols for their families, friends' families, etc. This was 1987, mind you. They did it again the next year, and the next, and the next. It got bigger each time, more brass players were invited, girlfriends came along to hold the music, etc. Several of them went to the same college, so college friends soon joined in and this was when I got involved (circa 1990). Pretty soon, it began to include wives, and just kept on growing. Before you knew it, there were babies coming along, then toddlers, now elementary-schoolers. We call this "Brass Caroling" or just plain "Caroling". It happens some time during the week before Christmas, and the 2008 version was last night. Year number 22, which makes us all feel incredibly old, but I digress.

Over time, it has evolved into a combination of fun and seeing old friends and playing music + doing something charitable and sharing our Christmas cheer with those less fortunate, etc. We play at a homeless shelter near here every year; they schedule us in so that the people are gathered in a big common area to hear us, etc. Last night it was particularly tough, simply because of the number of people in the audience. This is one time that you want your audience to be small.......but it was a packed house last night, and the staff said they had people lined up outside on "stand by" hoping to get in if a spot opened up. It was in the 20s last night, wind chill in the teens.

I look at them and wonder what they think about us. Not in an egotistical way, but more like "do they think we're pretentious? Do they think we're pathetic in our feeble attempts to do something for them? Do they really enjoy this, does it really help in some small way?" It feels so insignificant, you know? These people have no home, are probably hungry much of the time, might have mental illnesses, addiction problems, or lost their job, etc. Their lives might be extremely unhappy, might feel hopeless, lost, frustrated.......but damn it, they got to sing Jingle Bells with a bunch of college-educated preppy white people who think they're doing a good deed for the less fortunate at Christmastime. How nice.

Sorry. That's the pessimist in me coming out. It IS nice to play there, is more meaningful than playing at the local mall food court which is what we used to do. And I hope it does some kind of good for someone, maybe takes their mind off of the situation for a few moments, etc. Definitely makes me hug my kids a bit tighter, giving thanks for the many blessings we have. Snuggling up in that hotel bed last night, I prayed for those people, and thanked God for our health, our safety and for how fortunate we really are. I forget that a lot, looking at the relative UNprosperity of my family compared to so many we know and associate with. But in the scheme of things, we've got it really, really good.

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